A real estate agent helps buyers and sellers with nearly every aspect of a home sale, but there are some tasks they cannot legally perform. A residential real estate attorney is beneficial in many ways throughout a transaction where an agent would be limited. Sometimes they’re even required by law (or a lender) to be present at closing, representing the lender or title company. Let’s look at what it takes to become a residential real estate attorney, their most common roles, and some additional specialized services.
The Qualifications of a Residential Real Estate Attorney
Like any lawyer, a residential real estate attorney must achieve a bachelor’s degree before attending law school. Most choose to study pre-law or a related subject, such as business or economics. They’ll then need to pass the LSAT to be accepted into law school and earn a Juris Doctor (J.D.) degree. It’s common for aspiring attorneys to gain experience and build skills through internships while in law school. Upon graduation, law students must then pass the bar exam in the state where they will be practicing law.
Contract Writing & Negotiating
Real estate agents may help clients complete standardized forms, but attorneys can write a contract themselves. This is especially useful in non-standard transactions or when a client has specific needs not met by existing forms. When standard forms are used, an attorney may add, omit, or clarify sections of the contract to better suit their purposes. During negotiations, they can quickly interpret legal language and track changes made to the contract. A residential real estate attorney will ensure a contract meets their client’s needs and is legally enforceable.
The Closing Process
Some states and lenders require a real estate attorney during the closing process. The attorney will conduct a title search, draft and review all closing documents, oversee the transfer of funds, prepare the deed, and properly record all documents. They, generally, ensure everyone did what they were supposed to in the transaction. If anything goes wrong at closing, your attorney is the best chance at walking away with as much of your assets as possible. At a successful closing, they provide peace of mind that the transaction was performed properly and legal issues won’t come up later.
Additional Specialized Services
Real estate is a vast industry, so there are many areas of real estate law that an attorney could focus on beyond general practice. If your needs are very specific, you may want to hire a specialist to assist with the transaction. The list below includes some of the most common areas of residential real estate law where a specialized attorney would be more beneficial, but it is not exhaustive. If you can name the legal issue, then there’s likely an expert attorney for the job!
Zoning & Land Use Litigation
Property Tax Issues
A home purchase or sale is a massive transaction. It’s important for a buyer or seller to protect their investment and assets now and in the future. Hiring a residential real estate attorney can help prevent headaches and litigation problems later. If there’s already an attorney involved in the transaction and they were hired by someone else, then they’re not working toward your best interests. To find the best real estate attorney for you, search the American Bar Association directory online.